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Attempts to condition homing pigeons to magnetic stimuli

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Summary

Ninety-seven homing pigeons were tested for their ability to detect small changes in magnetic fields. The tests, which were intended to corroborate and extend those reported by Reille (1968), were performed in uniform magnetic fields using 2 m diameter Helmholtz coils (series I), and also in non-uniform fields using 24 cm diameter coils (series II). There were no significant differences between responses to magnetic fields and control tests, though significant responses to a light flash demonstrated the overall viability of the test method, which was a classically conditioned increase in heart rate. In series I there were indications of a difference between two magnet treatments, steady fields vs. alternating fields, but in a more sensitive test for the same effect in series II no differences were observed.

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This research was funded by NSF grants GB 13046X and GB 35199X to W. T. Keeton.

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Kreithen, M.L., Keeton, W.T. Attempts to condition homing pigeons to magnetic stimuli. J. Comp. Physiol. 91, 355–362 (1974). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00694466

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